Inside America's most toxic nuclear waste dump, where 56 million gallons of buried radioactive sludge are leaking into the earth
- Hanford Nuclear Reservation is the most polluted area in the United States. Buried beneath the complex is 56 million gallons of radioactive waste that need to be dealt with.
- The reservation produced the plutonium for Fat Man, the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki in Japan, as well as for the United States' atomic weapon stockpile during the Cold War.
- In June 2019, President Trump's administration announced it would downgrade the threat levels of some radioactive waste to save the government $40 billion on cleanup.
- The announcement has been criticized as a way to make cleaning up nuclear waste easier, without actually doing the clean-up part.
- Trump's administration also wants to cut Hanford's funding by $416 million. But the cleanup needs more funding, not less.
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Sitting on 586 square miles of desert in Washington, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is the most toxic place in America.
Buried beneath the ground, in storage tanks, are 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. Many of them are leaking into the ground.According to NBC, some nuclear experts have said Hanford is "an underground Chernobyl waiting to happen."
Hanford produced the plutonium to build Fat Man, the atomic weapon that was detonated above Nagasaki at the end of World War II, and for the United States's nuclear arsenal during the Cold War.
In 1989, after years of dismissing concerns about contamination, the reservation's management finally admitted the site needed to be cleaned up. But cleaning up nuclear waste is difficult. It can't be burned or buried. The plan is to build a waste management plant that will turn the waste into glass, which can be stored away for thousands of years. It's a slow, costly process.
As The Daily Beast reported, "Hanford is the worst kind of mess: the kind that humanity is capable of making, but not capable of cleaning up."
The longer the contaminated materials are left, the worse they become. Here's what the nuclear reservation is like.